Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves

Blood Rose RebellionInformation

Goodreads: Blood Rose Rebellion
Series: Blood Rose Rebellion #1
Source: City Book Review
Published: March 28, 2017

Official Summary

Sixteen-year-old Anna Arden is barred from society by a defect of blood. Though her family is part of the Luminate, powerful users of magic, she is Barren, unable to perform the simplest spells. Anna would do anything to belong. But her fate takes another course when, after inadvertently breaking her sister’s debutante spell—an important chance for a highborn young woman to show her prowess with magic—Anna finds herself exiled to her family’s once powerful but now crumbling native Hungary.

Her life might well be over.

In Hungary, Anna discovers that nothing is quite as it seems. Not the people around her, from her aloof cousin Noémi to the fierce and handsome Romani Gábor. Not the society she’s known all her life, for discontent with the Luminate is sweeping the land. And not her lack of magic. Isolated from the only world she cares about, Anna still can’t seem to stop herself from breaking spells.

As rebellion spreads across the region, Anna’s unique ability becomes the catalyst everyone is seeking. In the company of nobles, revolutionaries, and Romanies, Anna must choose: deny her unique power and cling to the life she’s always wanted, or embrace her ability and change that world forever.

Review

Blood Rose Rebellion is generally an engaging book. It’s well-written with strong characters and an engaging plot.  Unfortunately, it reminds me of a lot of other YA fantasy I’ve been reading, and it doesn’t stand out from the crowd.  The marketing team for the book is comparing it to Red Queen, presumably because of the class differences that the book explores; magic is in the bloodlines of the ruling elite.  However, for me the story most brought to mind A Shadow Bright and Burning with its setting in an alternate 1800s Europe and focus on a female protagonist with unusual powers whose destiny may lead her to dispense magic to people to whom the ruling class declares it does not belong.  While both novels are good, reading them side by side does make them blend together, and I wish Blood Rose Rebellion had felt more original to me.

That issue aside, I very much liked the characters in the book, particularly protagonist Anna Arden. She’s passionate and idealistic but sometimes too impetuous for her own good. Her personality makes her a great main character to follow, as she’s always getting into one adventure or another.  I also enjoyed her grandmother, dignified but with a hidden strength, and her cousin who also has a hidden heart of  gold.

On the hand, I do wish the love interest had been more developed.  I know what I’m supposed to think about him–he’s smart, hardworking, and loyal to his family.  However, I felt as though this was often told to me rather than shown, and I didn’t feel a connection between him and Anna.  For me, the romance is not the high point of the story.

The world building is solid, and I felt like I could picture the magic system that Eves has created.  The historical aspects might have been better integrated, however, as I mostly got the general points that Hungary wants to be free from the Habsburgs and that Europe is in a general state of rebellion.  Anna mentions Queen Victoria of England in passing.  Eves does include an author’s note with some more historical details at the end of the book, but I would have liked this information to be included in the actual story.  I also could have done with fewer info dumps.

I think fans of YA fantasy will enjoy Blood Rose Rebellion, but I didn’t really read it at the right time to fall in love with it.

Briana

Maud by Melanie J. Fishbane

INFORMATION

Goodreads: Maud
Series: None
Source: Gift
Published: April 2017

SUMMARY

Fourteen-year-old Lucy Maud Montgomery dreams of attending college and becoming a writer, but her grandfather does not believe in higher education for women.  Worse, when she finally goes out west to be with her father again, her new stepmother treats her as nothing more than a nanny.  Will Maud ever find a way to follow her dreams?  Or will she grow old feeling that her world has grown increasingly smaller?

Review

Fans of Anne of Green Gables, rejoice!  If you have ever wished to find a similar book and have already read and reread all of L. M. Montgomery’s other titles, this might just be the book for you.  Based on Montgomery’s journals and letters, Maud recounts the author’s teen years on P.E.I. and in Prince Albert.  Maud is a little bit of Anne and little bit of Emily, combining a love for life and beauty with a desire to overcome the odds.  But Maud is, most importantly, ultimately herself–and you are sure to fall in love.

The early parts of the book most resemble Montgomery’s novels, which can make it feel at times like the author and the reader are playing a game of “spot the allusion” together.  Perhaps this is understandable, however.  Montgomery’s stories sprang from her own life and her own feelings of loneliness, frustration, and despair–as well as the moments of deep joy– certainly made their way into her heroines’ journeys.   Maud’s tale is, however, a little darker than those of her young female protagonists, and readers will find themselves sympathizing with her as her world shrinks and her hopes diminish.  Knowing how history turns out does not make the journey less moving.

The pacing of the story does feel a little uneven, with Maud’s years in P.E.I. and her blossoming romance with a certain handsome someone cut abruptly short at the end of Book One.  Book Two, which chronicles Maud’s years with her stepmother and her father in Prince Albert, takes up the bulk of the story.  This is where much of the drama is, as Maud tries to hone her writing skills even as her stepmother tries to keep her from school so she can play nanny to her stepmother’s children.  However, Book One offers many delightful friendships, quiet and reflective moments, and cherished time spent on the Island.  Fishbane could have made Books One and Two roughly equal in size to keep the narrative pacing consistent.

Overall, however, Maud is a charming tale of a young woman growing up, discovering herself, and chasing her dreams.  Fans of Montgomery’s works will love it, but, with its compelling protagonist and sweet romances, fans of YA will find much to enjoy in it, as well.

4 stars

A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess

A Shadow Bright and Burning

Information

Goodreads: A Shadow Bright and Burning
Series: Kingdom on Fire #1
Source: City Book Review
Published: September 2016

Official Summary

Henrietta Howel can burst into flames. When she is brought to London to train with Her Majesty’s sorcerers, she meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, young men eager to test her powers and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her. As Henrietta discovers the secrets hiding behind the glamour of sorcerer life, she begins to doubt that she’s the true prophesied one. With battle looming, how much will she risk to save the city–and the one she loves?

Review

A Shadow Bright and Burning uses some YA fantasy tropes, but still manages to be a fun and creative read.  Though readers will be introduced to character types they may have seen before–the overly charismatic flirt, the wise teacher, the girl prophesied to change their world–minor twists and tweaks will allow readers to still fall in love with them all. Henrietta herself may be the biggest draw here. Sure, she’s the “chosen one” and a bit of a special snowflake at times, but she also has real flaws and real doubts, which she combats with a spunky attitude and a willingness to work hard to achieve goals.

The plot follows Henrietta as she trains to become a sorcerer, the first female one in ages, and looks forward to a future where she can help her kingdom fight the monsters that have taken over the seas and most of the large towns.  The pacing is occasionally slow, but this often made up for with interesting characters and world-building. There’s a nice Victorian vibe to the book, as well, and the opening scenes in Henrietta’s orphanage may bring to mind echoes of Jane Eyre–if Jane Eyre were in possession of some powerful magic.

Speckled in with the adventure are some serious conversations: the divide between the rich and the poor, the hard decisions the sorcerers must make about which lives to save, and the prejudice facing all magic workers who are not sorcerers.  Henrietta’s world has magic, but it’s not often beautiful. It’s dark and full of secrets.

A Shadow Bright and Burning, overall, is a solid fantasy adventure.  It has a determined protagonist, real danger, and a hint of romance to come in the sequels. YA fantasy fans will probably enjoy this take on magic.

4 stars Briana

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas (Spoilers)

A Court of Wings and Ruin

Information

Goodreads: A Court of Wings and Ruin
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses #3
Source: Purchased
Published: May 2, 2017

Official Summary

Review

The Court of Thorns and Roses series has been a roller coaster of emotions for me as a reader.  Maas knows how to keep her audience on their toes and consistently bring out drama and surprises.  A Court of Wings and Ruin is no exception.  I do think this book is more muted than its predecessor, but that also means that it’s more consistent, in everything from pacing to plotting to character development.

Although this book opens with sort of a sub plot featuring Feyre at the Spring Court, once she returns to the Night Court, there’s a focus on getting Prythian prepared to deal with a war, and I liked that there was a clear overarching plot with a clear stated end goal.  A Court of Mist and Fury was fun but a bit chaotic, and this is a nice break for readers and a good chance for Maas to show off her skills writing a more unified book.

I’ve made it clear that Feyre has been irritating to me throughout the series, though, interestingly, for different reasons in all three books.  Here, Feyre has finally grown into her powers and confidence (though perhaps she’s so powerful and unique that it’s a bit overkill), and that’s really great to see.  She has had a clear character arc over the three novels.  However, I found her fairly hypocritical in this book.  She looks down on her enemies using tactics and powers that apparently are perfectly fine for her.  Somehow, when she’s doing it, it’s different.  (Example: She is horrified that the enemy would break into priestesses minds and make them see something that was not true.  She thinks it’s an abominable violation.  But she does this all the time.  To friends.  To enemies. To neutral people she embroils in her plots. And generally concludes that it’s fine. )  I thought Rhys was a magnificently complex character in A Court of Mist and Fury, but he too starts to fall off into a bit of a trap of thinking “Well, I do what I must, so no point dwelling on it.”

I complained in my review of A Court of Mist and Fury that Tamlin really got the short end of the stick when it came to character development, and I think that remains true here.  To be frank, I don’t even know what’s going on with his character, and Maas seems determined to make him do and believe whatever is most convenient for the plot.  He becomes just sad in this book, rather than a straight-up villain, but the change seems fairly abrupt and probably could have used more development.  It’s a 700 page novel; I think Maas could have worked it in.

In reality, it’s the secondary characters that shine in this installment: Feyre’s sisters, the Night Court, Lucien.  All of these people have layers of personality and history that are slowly unfurled during the course of the novel, and while much of the plot was neatly wrapped up, it’s clear there’s more to learn here, about Elain and Lucien especially.  I would love to read more about them in the future.

I have minor issues with this book, but they’re issues I’ve had with the entire series.  The bottom line for me is that Maas seriously knows how to entertain.  I just need to know what happens next in this series, and to me, that’s a very successful form of writing.  I’ve loved watching the characters grow and the plot unfold for these three books, and I’ll be interested in reading more about Prythian.

Aside: If you want to know my take on the question of “Are there too many sex scenes in this book?” my answer is yes.  Though Feyre does have a kind of sexual development over the series (which seems weird to say, but her attitude towards sex really transforms over time), I think there was a bit much here.  It’s realistic to note that some couples do have a lot of sex, but I think Maas could have gotten the feeling that Feyre and Rhys are really passionate about each other with fewer sex scenes.  To me, the real problem is that they seemed to bog down rather than forward the plot in a few cases.

4 stars Briana

Which Godspawn Are You? (A Strange the Dreamer Personality Quiz)

Which Godspawn Are You from Strange the Dreaer

Instructions

Count how many times you answer “a,” “b,” “c,” “d,” or “e” below to find out which of the godspawn from Laini Taylor’s Strange the Dreamer has a personality that matches yours! Be sure to share your results with us in the comments!  If you like this quiz, you can check out our other literary quizzes here.

The Quiz

1. Where would you most like to read a book?

a.) palace
b.) your own room
c.) garden
d.) bookstore
e.) library

2. What is your favorite flavor?

a.) cinnamon
b.) mint
c.) peach
d.) raspberry
e.) vanilla

3. What animal would you like most for a pet?

a.) parrot
b.) tiger
c.) kitten
d.) horse
e.) dog

4. What is your favorite type of shoe?

a.) heel
b.) boot
c.) flat
d.) sandal
e.) sneaker

5. Which magical power would you most want?

a.) telekinesis
b.) mind reading
c.) flight
d.) creation
e.) invisibility

6. What is the best weather?

a.) windy
b.) storms
c.) sunny
d.) breezy
e.) rain

7. Where would you most like to go on vacation?

a.) Argentina
b.) Iceland
c.) Ireland
d.) China
e.) Italy

8. What is your favorite type of music?

a.) EDM
b.) rock
c.) pop
d.) classical
e.) jazz

9. What is the best time of day?

a.) sunset
b.) night
c.) twilight
d.) sunrise
e.) midday

10. What career sounds most appealing?

a.) writer
b.) doctor
c.) artist
d.) explorer
e.) professor

11. Which activity would you like to try?

a.) ballroom dancing
b.) archery
c.) figure skating
d.) sailing
e.) horseback riding

Results

Mostly A’s

You Are Ruby. Full of passion, you enjoy living life to the fullest. You aren’t afraid of spontaneity and making your own path.

Mostly B’s

You are Minya. You are extremely focused and driven. Nothing can stop you from completing what you have put your mind to. You would do anything to help those you love.

Mostly C’s

You are Sparrow. Kindhearted and sweet, you enjoy making things happy and watching things grow. You want to create, not destroy.

Mostly D’s

You are Sarai. Though you have experienced pain, you are a dreamer and idealist; you imagine how things could be rather than how they are.

Mostly E’s

You are Feral. You’re focused and a little bookish, but everyone admires your pursuit of knowledge. You long to use what you know to make the world a better place.

Share your results with us in the comments!

Poison’s Kiss by Breeana Shields

Poison's KissInformation

Goodreads: Poison’s Kiss
Series: Poison’s Kiss #1
Source: For Review
Published: January 10, 2017

Official Summary

Marinda has kissed dozens of boys. They all die afterward. It’s a miserable life, but being a visha kanya, a poison maiden, is what she was created to do. Marinda serves the Raja by dispatching his enemies with only her lips as a weapon.

Until now, the men she was ordered to kiss have been strangers, enemies of the kingdom. Then she receives orders to kiss Deven, a boy she knows too well to be convinced he needs to die. She begins to question who she s really working for. And that is a thread that, once pulled, will unravel more than she can afford to lose.

This rich, surprising, and accessible debut is based in Indian folklore and delivers a story that will keep readers on the edge of their seats.

Review

I was intrigued by the concept of Poison’s Kiss, the idea that a girl could be an assassin who kills with a single brush of her lips.  Admittedly, I wasn’t expecting a hardcore assassin or an epic story, but rather one that incorporated some minor assassinating with lot of romance, and that’s pretty much what I got.  I think it’s a stretch to compare this to bestselling books like those of Sarah J. Maas (though the publisher goes for the comparison with gusto), but it’s a solid YA fantasy and a fun read.

The plot follows Marinda as she begins to question her role as a royal assassin–only after she’s instructed to kill a boy she likes, of course.  This seems like a pretty cliche YA move, but I think it’s a nice point in that it shows Marinda questions the motives of her employer when she knows the victim and cannot imagine someone so seemingly good is deserving of murder.

Frankly, the love is instalove.  I think both characters have really compelling qualities on their own, but their romance could have a lot more build up.  They go from thinking “Oh, he seems like a nice guy/girl” to head-over-heels in love so quickly that I didn’t feel invested in the romance at all.  The relationships between Marinda and her brother and Marinda and her friend/coworker are much more complex.  In fact, Marinda’s relationship with literally everyone else she knows in the book is more convincing and realistic.

The plot in general is well-paced and exciting. It took a couple of turns I genuinely did not see coming, which I always appreciate in a novel.  I also thought the end sets up the story perfectly for a sequel.  Readers get enough closure from book one to feel as though they’ve read a full story, not the first third of one, but the action leads readers right into expecting epic things from book two.

Poison’s Kiss isn’t necessarily my favorite read of 2017, but it’s entertaining, and I like the Indian-inspired setting.

3 stars Briana

William Shakespeare’s King Lear: A Graphic Novel by Gareth Hinds

king-lear-hindINFORMATION

Goodreads: King Lear
Series: None
Source: Library
Published: 2007

SUMMARY

Approaching old age, King Lear determines to divide his kingdom among his daughters.  But is a king still a king when he has given up all the trappings of royalty?  Gareth Hinds adapts one of Shakespeare’s most well-known tragedies.

Review

Gareth Hinds presents what seems to be a scholarly adaptation of what some consider Shakespeare’s best tragedy.  Complete with a preface about variations between the Quarto and Folio versions, a dramatis personae, and endnotes about the changes and excisions made, the work seems poised to save students everywhere from failing their Shakespeare exams.  But the seriousness of the text raises it above a study guide.  It’s clear that Hinds respects his source material and wants to present it in a way that’s both accessible and beautiful.  And he succeeds.

This adaptation does not have the rich colors of Hinds’s Romeo and Juliet, but it’s still in full color and Hinds makes some interesting stylistic choices sure to raise questions in the attentive reader.  The play begins in pastels but will encompass a variety of illustrations, including pages that are mostly white space and scenes shown as negatives.  Black-and-white drawings end the tale.  Each choice contributes a certain mood to the story, even if sometimes it seems like the message is too blatant.  “Bad stuff is happening here!” cry the negative drawings.

Some of the action becomes so cluttered that Hinds unfortunately has to provide lines to show the progression of the story. This, assuredly, is not the best layout option for a graphic novel; you want the scenes to flow without such obvious markers.  I’m not sure if we could argue that even these lines provide some sort of meaning to the story.  We’re all lost and confused like Lear?  We’re directionless without the king?  The world has gone crazy and what used to have meaning no longer does?  I guess we could stretch our interpretive powers, but it seems as if we shouldn’t have to.

Altogether, however, the book does a nice job illustrating the story and suggesting to readers the power the play can have.  Readers new to drama often need time to learn  how to stage the plays in their heads, how to hear the emotions, how to read the stage directions implicit in the dialogue.  The graphic novel brings this life.

3 starsKrysta 64